(Still) solving for “y” with the marching band
The social math doesn't add up, which makes for some beautiful music.
I live by a high school with a much-ballyhooed football team. I also work from home. Every morning I sit down to work, I hear the marching band practicing. And it always makes me think of math.
My high school started at 7:03 a.m. Every year, no matter my grade, I had math first hour, and it was my worse subject. As I had yet to develop my healthy caffeine habit, my synapses were not firing or even pretending to fire, so I sat by the window to keep myself awake.
Marching Band was also a first-hour class, and the math wing faced the fields. Given the dark fall mornings, I couldn’t see the band, but I could hear the halftime music coming together - the beat of the drums and the trill of the flutes. Some mornings, if I could get away with it, I would crack the window so the sound was clearer.
Hearing the individual instruments made me think of what those students were doing. They weren’t solving for “a.” They were playing at the break of day, marching in the dark, no doubt quipping when the band director took a break to address the wayward.
Having a few good friends in the band, I knew them to be a good-humored bunch with a plethora of inside jokes. They were bonded by schedules and uniforms and stupid high school cliches. Our band embraced the term “band geeks”.
The social math didn’t add up with the band, for they refused to stay in the box high school calculated for them. The “band geeks” included quiet kids, theater kids, math nerds, cheerleaders, class presidents, class clowns, athletes and even a few kids who appeared to live full-time in the bathroom smoking.
In short, it was a cross-section of high school that, from the outside at least, marched to the beat of the same drummer. They seemed accepting of each other, a band against the world.
And no one had more fun at football games than the band - spirited, silly, super-loud.
Cheerleaders loved them. Outsiders, too.
I often pondered this unbalanced equation on dark fall mornings during first hour, my pencil loose in my hand. How did the band avoid the social variables of high school to actually, well, enjoy themselves?
Maybe it was because the band was dressed like toy soldiers on game nights when the rest of the population had to interpret cool for the evening.
Maybe it was because they were playing the same song, granted with different instruments and different choreography, but when taken together, they were one force.
Maybe because they were not only entertaining the masses but were massive enough not to care what the masses thought.
Maybe it was because they could be different together – the ultimate cool.
I thought about this high school paradox far more than I thought about trigonometric functions during first hour. Maybe it was because high school was such a rough place, that any evidence to the contrary was worth cracking the windows in the back and slacking off at math.
And, frankly, it still is.
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One of the things which makes HS hard is trying to maintain social connections while moving through different groups from class-to-class, year-to-year. For many of us “band geeks,” band is a family which began before middle-school made everything complicated, with connections which grow stronger every year. For many, the friends we make in band become the family we choose, our safe place, our home. Team sports have a similar bond, but even those shuffle lineups as teams get regrouped into JV or Varsity, and different players are started while others are benched. Like an ideal family, people are often eating and traveling together, everyone is always included, everyone relies on everyone else, and even though we grow into different people we need to learn to accept each other in working toward common goals. It's several years of getting together with the same people every day to ask ourselves what we can each do individually to create something beyond ourselves, something which can only be experienced with the group. At our best, we share the experience of a well-played show/concert so intense, it can really feel like nothing else in the world matters, and in that moment it's true.
It’s the music. Music brings people together. If you have a bad mood… put on the music. If your sleepy but need to get motivated… put on the music. If you can’t sleep… spa music can help. Thank you Nicole. Music is powerful 🎶